Saturday, June 23, 2012

Old Houses

Stadium Auto Wash by
Stadium Auto Wash, a photo by on Flickr.

For about two years now I've been in love with pictures of abandoned houses. It's so awesome to see the history left behind by a family on the move.

Personally, I was always too scared to go into any houses. I didn't want to 'get in trouble', find dead bodies, fall through a floor, etc etc etc...

But I REALLY wanted to do it.

My friend and I started our adventures by going into a house down the road from me. It's a huge white farmhouse, set off the road and swallowed by overgrown weeds.

It was very cool... lots of old beer cans, creepy basement, awesome couch... and then we found a room upstairs that freaked us out. A lot.

It was painted black, posters of demons and devils on the wall, huge locking mechanism on the door, chains on the wall above the bed and a weird hidden compartment.

I still worry about getting "caught", but not as much as I used to. Just the other day we were poking around an old farm in Washtenaw county, and the farmer showed up.

He LOVED that we were there. Admittedly, I had my mace in my hand the entire time, but it was fine. He was just a nice guy who thought it was cool that we were interested in his place.

Many adventures to come!

Well Guess What

Alia by
Alia, a photo by on Flickr.
I started this blog as a way to chronicle my journey through photography. I had these abstract ideas of what I'd do in the future... I knew I wanted to work for myself, but it seemed like it would never *really* happen.

But it did.

I was working for a retail photography company, and I hated it. It was everything I disliked about photography and very little that I liked.

Most customers were "okay" with the studio... some were very unhappy... and a few really liked it.

Which is all wrong.

The customers complained that they felt rushed, and I agreed... I felt rushed, too. They only allocated 15 minutes to shoot a full session, and even under the best circumstances, that was rarely possible.

The customers complained that there weren't enough pictures to choose from. There weren't. We were only allowed to shoot 12 poses. Maximum. Even if we only had one session all day, they didn't want us "overshooting", because then the customer would have no reason to come back for more pictures.

That makes no sense.

If a customer is happy, if they enjoy their experience and they find good value in the photography, they will come back.

If they are rushed, pressured and double booked, they won't come back. Even if they wanted more pictures.

For some people the studio was a great bargain. They would come in with their coupon for 35 portraits for $10, or a free wall portrait, and leave.

For most people, it was a huge letdown and they resented the "bait and switch".

Not to mention the crazy rules the company had. We could never ever turn anyone away. Even if we were quadruple booked. You want an appointment right now? Okay, you got it.

The problem of course is that EVERYONE was waiting for over an hour for their session.

And the employees almost ALWAYS had to work 1 or 2 hours (if not more) past their scheduled shift.

I was lucky that the girls who worked with me were driven to do their best, they were fast learners and hard workers. But that doesn't change the fact that they were working for just above minimum wage, had less than two weeks in training, and often didn't know what was expected of them.

So I left and decided to go it alone.  I am now a portrait photographer serving Lenawee, Washtenaw and Jackson counties on a regular basis.  I can now offer my clients a wonderful FUN experience, unique images, beautiful expressions and awesome prints.

I've been fairly busy (thank goodness!). I'm renting a studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and doing a lot of "on location" shoots.

It usually takes about an hour to get a complete session. Sometimes it takes more time, and that's okay because I don't over book myself.

I love the freedom of being able to focus on good photography instead of on trying to find a way to minimize time spent with each client while maximizing profit.

It's still pretty stressful, money wise. I worry constantly about my bills and expenses... but it'll all work out. I know.

I've also been doing lessons, which is awesome. I love helping other people learn how to capture the beauty around them.

The moral of the story is that everything happens as it should, and while I'm not religious at all, it does feel like fate had a hand in this.


Monday, December 26, 2011

I was MIA, I know

Crows II by
Crows II, a photo by on Flickr.

I do realize how cliche it is to make a blog post about how sorrrrry you are to have let *all* of your adoring readers down with your lack of posts... but, it is a nice segue (if that's how you spell it) into me telling you what I've been doing lately.

So, sorry it's been so long since I've updated this.

I've been busy doing a few things, one of which is talking with a local nature society about selling my work in their nature center.

I also landed a new job managing a retail portrait studio.

On one hand, I'm embarrassed that I'm doing what I'm doing... it's like a chef who has devoted most of his time and efforts into becoming a great master, only to land a job at TGIFridays.

On the other hand, I am technically getting paid to do what I love doing. Sometimes it's mundane and almost painful, but most of the time it's fun and rewarding.

Years ago I had managed a similar type of studio. The camera was mounted on this immovable pole, and the most that you could do was zoom in.

The studios are now equiped with pretty decent dSLRs. The lighting is still broad and the backgrounds can be tacky, but it's leaps and bounds better than it used to be.

I also feel a little guilt over charging such low prices. When I hear someone gasp at a $100.00 price tag for a full session, I can't help but think of how shocked they'd be to have hired a "real" photographer.

I'm lucky to work with a few ladies who actually have quite the knack for photography... and it's cool to see them develop their talent.

So, the moral of the story is that I technically achieved what I sat out to do... but there's still a long road ahead.

In other news, the photo I've linked (Crows II) was featured for a week on Ron Howards youtube channel.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Old Bates Hotel"

Hotel Room by
Hotel Room, a photo by on Flickr.

There's this abandoned place on US12, not too far from my house. It's one of those places that I've always wanted to stop and photograph, but I worried someone might see me.

Last year I photographed the back of the hotel


but I never worked up enough nerve to go up front for pictures.

Yesterday I took a second to pick my fear apart. What was I afraid of?

Cops? Not really... there aren't many cops out there, so someone would have to CALL the cops, and by the time they got to the hotel, I'd probably be done. And even if I wasn't done, I'm *pretty* sure I'd just get off with a warning. Worst case senario is that I get arrested, I suppose. But... are they going to arrest some lady out taking pictures of the outside of a building?

Probably not.

Vagrants living inside? No. Too rural of an area, and the place is too dilapidated to provide good shelter.

Owner/Neighbor coming after me with a pitchfork? No.

People driving by on US12 and seeing me? Yes.

But that's a dumb thing to be afraid of.

So I finally went and took pictures!

When I first walked up to the building I could smell something. My first thought was, "dead body!". But I'm pretty sure it was just mint or something aromatic growing in the yard.

Yes, I realize that dead bodies probably don't smell minty.

If you know anything about this place, or even if you cant point me in the direction to learn on my own, let me know!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Do It

Look Up by
Look Up, a photo by on Flickr.

I have a hard time understanding how some people can't take good pictures. I mean, I know a lot of it is technical stuff: shutter speed, ISO, etc... but a lot of it is just a matter of looking for cool stuff.

Particularly with landscapes. You don't have to worry about shutter speed, because typically, nothing is moving. You don't have to worry about aperature, because DOF is irrelevant, ISO can be set at whatever you want.

The worst that could happen is that you get an image with noise (due to high ISO).

Any point and shoot camera will automatically adjust to the ideal settings, particularly if it has a "landscape" mode.

Yes, there are situations where adjusting settings will improve a photograph, but I believe that in most cases, it's pretty straightforward.

But people don't do that. Most people take pictures of their kids running around, their cats sticking their paw in the bath water, etc... yet when they see my landscapes, they appreciate them, and often say, "oh I wish I had a good camera like you".

(which is annoying, by the way)

So if it's not the camera, what is it?


Was it talent that made me notice this cloud sitting above the copse of trees?

No, I don't think it was.

It was just a matter of looking around with an open mind, and noticing things. I don't think that's a talent.

I will drive around for an hour, taking pictures of different things. I do it like it's my damn job. I have no idea what drives me. It's not money, since I'm making none. It's not that I want to be lavished with praise (although I don't mind).

I guess it's a matter of doing justice to the world by appreciating everything around us.

I wish more people did this. I feel sad when I think that most beauty goes unseen.

Even if every photograph you take is mediocre, the very process of being out and looking for interesting things will expand your mind. You will notice things you've taken for granted.

It adds value to every minute of the day.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Featured Photographer

I had the honor of being named the Featured Photographer for SE Michigan for the month of August.  Very thankful and honored, SEMIDP!

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Woaaaaaah! by
Woaaaaaah!, a photo by on Flickr.

I saw a lot of people wandering around the fairgrounds with dSLRs.

I wonder what kinds of pictures other people take. They buy big fancy cameras, nice lenses, cool straps and facy cases. Do they know how to use them?

I always have people telling me that they wish they knew how to use all the settings on their cameras. They say they want me to teach them, but the time never comes. They are always too busy.

So do they really want to learn, or do they realize how silly it is to buy equipment that they aren't sure how to use?

A lot of websites make fun of people who buy cool cameras without knowing how to use them. "Every girl you went to highschool with that has a nice camera calls herself a photographer" type stuff.

It is true. Of course there are people who know how to use their stuff... I talk to a lot of them on flickr. But really, there is a disporportionate number of cameras floating around, set to "auto" at all times.

Not to mention the people who ask me what kind of camera I have. They see a cool picture, and out pops, "oh wow, this is such an awesome shot! you must have a nice camera!". I've also had quite a few people ask me to help them make a camera purchase.

They really seem to be under the impression that there is a direct correlation between money spent on equipment and awesomeness of pictures.

Mind you, you can be an awesome photographer and get some good images out of a point and shoot. I've got some pictures I took with my phone that I absolutly love.

There are two things about photography.

1). Technial Knowledge. You must know about shutter speed, ISO and aperature. You have to. You have to realize how these three things interact. You have to have some idea of how to process images (Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, etc).

2). Aestetic. You have to be able to see beauty before you can capture it. You have to have the perspective of an artist.

Anyway, back to the fair... I was wondering which of these people walking around with a dSLR around their necks were techincally good, which were aesticially good, which were both, and which were neither.

And what did they think of me? Were they looking at me the same way I was looking at them?

Either way, my kid had fun riding rides, and I had fun taking pictures. :)